I don’t mean that in a creepy old man way, and certainly not in the back-when-I-was-in-school way. It’s more a looking forward kind of way. She’s a student and an employee of the university, but more than any of this she’s a girl. I have two girls myself, and more and more I see the 8-year-old and the 11-year-old in students, the sea of 20,000 that wash into campus in the morning, and then out again six hours later.
She was insulated only by the stylish train cap with the frayed brim, a hoodie, and mascara. Her jeans betrayed her stick-like body, more insect than human, but in a way you’d expect, with two legs (not six), fingers with chipped purple nail polish. She was more 11-year-old than 31-year old, but heading in the wrong direction. But I didn’t want to tell her that. She was confident and capable and naive and ignorant and I liked her and the idea of her. Her adorableness, maybe, was a built into her trajectory, one that she didn’t even see, the lack of knowledge of how close she was to 11 and how near 31 is. Her posture was perfect and her limber fingers poked out numbers and other keystrokes that created my check. She didn’t chat and she didn’t particularly care. Everything was light, and easy. It was refreshing.
She chewed gum in that way that a girl with big eyes and mascara and a hoodie would — evident but not with zeal. I thought, if I were 18 again, I’d think about her later, but since I’m 38 and amused, I should write this down as soon as possible because, really, I’m going to forget. It’s all so unfamiliar now. We, you and I, we’re 38, and our kids are hovering just around a decade, and these big eyes and a smile is so interesting and alien that it’s charming, or maybe it’s just interesting like some new species you only vaguely remember reading about once suddenly appears on an obscure cable channel. She handed me my reimbursement check and had me sign on the dotted line, the only full sentence she uttered to me. And, I thought, behind the window she was a bit more like a resident in a zoo, and I was just a visitor passing by on my way back to my office.